ASFPM Recognizes Excellence in Floodplain Management with 2020 ASFPM Awards

Nov 2, 2020 | What's New

Annual awards honor contributions made by individuals and agencies to keep communities safe from flood loss, promote resiliency

The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) today announced the winners of its 2020 awards. These annual awards recognize the outstanding contributions by individuals, agencies, and organizations who are advancing the association’s mission to reduce the loss of human life and property damage due to flooding.

Watch the awards presentation:

The 2020 ASFPM award winners are:

Tom Lee State Award for Excellence in Floodplain Management
The Tom Lee State Award for Excellence is given annually to recognize an outstanding floodplain management program or activity at the state level.

2020 Winner: Florida State Floodplain Management Office. As the state coordinating agency for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Florida State Floodplain Management Office performs a variety of functions to ensure communities remain compliant with regulations, ordinances, and the Florida Building Code. Beyond those responsibilities, the office has undertaken several initiatives that can serve as models for other states, including a Post-Disaster Toolkit to guide local floodplain administrators in their roles and responsibilities following disasters. It also created an innovative program that improves coordination between communities to share floodplain management issues, challenges, and solutions while offering training to help participants earn continuing education credits toward their Certified Floodplain Management credentials.

James Lee Witt Local Award for Excellence in Floodplain Management
The James Lee Witt Local Award recognizes outstanding local programs or activities at the front lines of floodplain management.

2020 Winner: Greenville County, South Carolina. Greenville County has a proactive floodplain management program that includes policies to ensure new development is adequately protected and has implemented projects to reduce risk to existing structures or remove them from harm’s way. The program is unique in that much of this work has been completed without the benefit of federal funding. In the last 12 years, Greenville has facilitated the acquisition of more than 180 at-risk or damaged properties representing over 200 structures removed from the floodplain, upgraded approximately 96 bridges or culverts, and returned more than 105 acres to natural floodplain. The initiative has paid dividends to the county in terms of reduced liability, enhanced services, improved water quality, and a reduction in repair, replacement, and emergency response costs.

Larry R. Johnston Local Floodplain Manager of the Year
This award is designed to honor an individual responsible for the development of a distinguished local program or activity, or one who struggles to implement flood hazard reduction at the local level in the absence of sophisticated programs and support.

2020 Winner: Cornelius R. Byrne, CFM, floodplain manager / CRS coordinator for City of Sea Isle City, NJ. Under Neil’s leadership, Sea Isle City has corrected past violations while strictly enforcing current regulations, allowing it to re-enter the Community Rating System (CRS) program after being on probation and in danger of suspension. The community continues to improve and its current Class 3 level is a first in New Jersey. Neil also helped write the Watershed Master Plan in the state and was part of the team that wrote the city’s OEM plan for CRS 610 credit in flood warning and response. In addition to his role with Sea Isle City, Neil is the CRS coordinator for Ocean City, New Jersey.

The John Ivey Award for Superior Efforts In Certification
This award recognizes exceptional efforts to promote the professional certification of floodplain managers. The award is named after John Ivey who was chair of the ASFPM Professional Development Committee in the mid-1990s and was instrumental in the development of the CFM exam.

2020 Winner: Roy D. Sedwick, CFM, Texas Floodplain Management Association. Roy has spent his career in floodplain management, having served many roles at the Texas Floodplain Management Association (TFMA), including its long-running executive director. Roy was a pioneer in the development of the certified floodplain manager (CFM) program in the late 1980s until the present day, fostering the nation’s largest CFM Program Partner/accredited chapter for the CFM administration in Texas, and continues to be a strong champion for the program nationwide.

Louthain Award for Distinguished Service to ASFPM
In 1995, the board established the Jerry Louthain Award for Distinguished Service to ASFPM, the highest award ASFPM gives to recognize individuals who, through their long-term efforts, have clearly supported and advanced the work of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

2020 Winner: Bob Freitag, CFM, director of the Institute for Hazards Mitigation Planning and Research (IHMP) at the University of Washington.

Bob Freitag’s service to the association is apparent across numerous fronts. He served on the ASFPM Board as Region 10 Director for six years and was instrumental in helping NORFMA become an ASFPM chapter. He was also the creator and first chair of the association’s Higher Education Committee, primary author of ASFPMs policy on climate change, and the creator of an ad hoc group to address climate change issues, causes, and adaptation.

Meritorious Lifetime Achievement in Floodplain Management Award
This award recognizes individuals who, throughout their career, have achieved success in a significant aspect of floodplain management. These efforts shall include, but not be limited to, policy, outreach, implementation, education, government, research, litigation or other actions that demonstrate the advancement of flood loss and risk reduction within the nominee’s professional realm.

This year we are giving out the award to the following three individuals: Bret Gates, Lisa Hair, and William “Buster” Smith.

Bret Gates is one of the pioneers of FEMA’s NFIP floodplain management program and was part of the original team that developed the NFIP regulations that are still the foundation of the program today. He also managed the first state floodplain management grant assistance program that is now the CAP-SSSE program. In the 1990s, Bret became the program manager for the Community Rating System program and continued in that role for more than a decade. During this period, Bret was the major influence in building collaborative input from the CRS Task Force, creating the CRS community compliance eligibility standard and coordinating a multitude of decisions and tasks around the CRS program.

Later Bret returned to floodplain management to help lead the NFIP’s efforts to better meet the program’s obligations under the endangered species act. In this capacity, Bret led and advised agency leadership through an incredibly complex set of challenges, leading the revision of the program’s environmental impact statement, working across interagency lines to support the development of multiple biological opinions, and helping to develop the agency’s long term strategy to ensure that reducing risk of loss of life and property can also benefit threatened and endangered species.

Lisa Hair recently retired from her position as an environmental engineer with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water. Lisa joined EPA’s Nonpoint Source Management Branch in 2007, leading a variety of efforts to advance the adoption of green stormwater infrastructure practices. In this capacity, she led a significant analysis of the impact of watershed scale green infrastructure in reducing property losses from localized flooding. This work in turn connected to the missions of federal partners such as FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Silver Jackets, and to nongovernmental partners like ASFPM.

Lisa recognized the opportunity to integrate Clean Water Act water quality programs with natural hazard mitigation planning and projects, and she became a tireless advocate and committed federal partner in this pursuit.  She provided input to FEMA as it developed mitigation policies and incentives focused on nature-based approaches to protecting against losses from fire, drought, or flooding. Lisa was a strong and important voice in the EPA for approaches that integrate water quality, habitat restoration, and nature-based infrastructure.

For many years, William “Buster” Smith attended the Mississippi Floodplain Managers Association annual meetings because Alabama did not have a chapter. Finally, he took it upon himself to start a chapter in Alabama. He organized meetings with other professionals who had been attending the Mississippi meetings, drafted the Alabama Floodplain Managers by-laws, and led the effort to establish the Association of Alabama Floodplain Managers (AAFM).

The first annual conference was held in Auburn, Alabama in the fall of 2008, the same year the AAFM received chapter membership in ASFPM.  Buster served as the president for several years and has since served in many roles on the AAFM Board of Directors.  He is still very active and attends association events each year. The growth of AAFM has increased significantly over the years and many still credit much of the growth to the foundation Buster laid. Through Buster’s past leadership, AAFM successfully hosts two workshops in the spring and an annual conference each fall, and assists in funding multiple other floodplain management trainings each year.

A special thank you to our awards selection committee, which was led by Jerry Robinson and included Rebecca Pfeiffer, Del Schwalls, Chad Berginnis, Larry Larson, and Ingrid Wadsworth.

The call for nominations for the 2021 ASFPM awards will go out later this year. We look forward to hearing about the many worthwhile individuals and agencies who are making a difference in the floodplain management community and those we serve. You can learn more about the awards here.